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Make Your Own Gyros

Once you've made tzatziki, it's pretty much a given that you're going to start thinking about making your own gyros. For those of you thus far unfamiliar with the gyros, it's a Greek "fast food" sort of dish. The name refers to the large turning spit containing a roast; (gyros is cognate with Modern English gyrate, to turn). Slices of the moist-but-crispy meat are combined with tazatziki, Greek yogurt-dill-and-cucumber sauce, on a pita. Other ingredients, like tomato, or feta, or lettuce or even pepper, salt, and paprika, are optional. In Greece gyros are common fare at small cafes and street carts. The Greeks borrowed the basic idea from Turkey, where the same dish is called a dönor kebab or "turning roast." The gyros and the dönor kebab have spread from the mediterranean to the world, including Europe and the U.S. In the U.S., the meat is generally either lamb, or a combination of lamb and beef. There are other variations as well; in Greece, gyros are often made with pork, and are almost always served with fried potatoes. Here in Washington, the meat is a combination of lamb and beef, usually purchased from one of the two main restaurant providers (linked below), and served with local onions, tzatziki, imported Pita (from Seattle), and dolmades on the side. If you're tired of waiting for a Greek festival, you can make your own gyros. Making fresh gyros at home is a great way to start enjoying a Mediterranean diet.

There are two ways of going about making your own gyros; first, the easy way, and then, the hard way. The easy way involves making your own tzatiki, and purchasing the gyros meat. You'll need to find a good source of fresh pita. It's really important that it be fresh. Try your local Persian/Mediterranean market, if your grocery store's offerings don't appeal. Be sure to check frozen sections too—and if you're lucky enough to be near one, Trader Joe's is often a good source for locally baked fresh pita. You should keep an eye out for feta too; and if you buy it at a deli, ask for a sample first. There's a wide range in feta flavors, from mild and creamy, to tart and tangy. Next, you'll need fresh lettuce, onions, and tomatoes. If you can't find sweet onions, red onions are fine and add a nice touch of color.

Now then, finding the gyros meat, or the dönor kebab meat (it could be labeled either way) can be tricky. Ethnic grocery stores often carry gyros meat in their frozen foods; it's typically made by one of two companies Corfu Foods, or Kronos. If you've ever had a gyros in a mall food court, the meat probably came from Kronos. If you have an oven with a small rotisserie, both companies have small roasts that will fit. Both also sell pre-cooked frozen gyros meat, ready to re-heat and serve. You can also buy gyros meat online from Parthenon Foods.

Now then, for those of you who want to make your own gyros; it's a bit of work, but you can make enough to freeze. The typical style of rotisserie gyros is built by layering and stacking uncooked meat on the giant skewer, then trimming it until its cone-shaped. As the meat cooks on the spinning rotisserie, the grease and fat drips down and off the bottom, so that the meat is both moist and lean. The cook slices thin slivers of perfectly cooked meat off just before putting in a pita. An alternative method for at home cooks, is to create a meatloaf, and then slice it for use in a gyros. The meat is either half beef and half lamb, or all lamb. Your first decision in terms of making it at home whether or not to start with all lamb, or half-and-half, the most common in American gyros. Then, you season the meat and prepare it according to one of these recipes: Greek-American gyros, and a discussion of the science behind his recipe and method, Alton Brown's gyros meat.

Image Credit: strph